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LI high school athletes adjusting to new target start date for fall season

Sayville quarterback Jack Cheshire throws to a teammate

Sayville quarterback Jack Cheshire throws to a teammate in preporation of the season on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

It’s been business as usual for Sayville senior quarterback Jack Cheshire. While the uncertainty of the fall season swirled around him, he continued his offseason workout regimen.

The state athletic association announced Thursday that training camp for the high school sports season will be delayed until Sept. 21. Still, Cheshire is excited to have a target date to return to the field.

“We’re working throughout the pandemic, whether it be at home or now outside on the fields,” he said. “We have a close group of friends that [badly] want this season to play out. The news of a start date was fantastic.”

Football camps were scheduled to open Aug. 24. The new start date of Sept. 21 followed the recommendations of the state’s COVID-19 Task Force in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cheshire, who broke the Long Island record for touchdown passes in a season with 43 in 2019, had hoped to lead an experienced Sayville team to the L.I. Class III title this fall, but the Long Island Championships will not be held this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Golden Flashes lost to Plainedge in the 2019 LIC.

Cheshire, a 6-2, 195-pounder, passed for 3,215 yards and led Sayville to the 2019 Suffolk Division III crown. Now he is in a critical time of his career, looking to be recruited to a big-time school. He’s been recruited by Colgate, Yale, Holy Cross, New Hampshire and Columbia.  

He recognizes there are contingency plans if training camp does not start on Sept. 21. He’s also aware that the state said there will be no regional or state competition in 2020-21; according to Robert Zayas, the state’s executive director, that would cancel the LIC.

Cheshire agreed that the possibility of a canceled fall season or the execution of a plan that implements a condensed season played sometime next year is a sobering reality. “If we go to the three-season format, it’ll be somewhat disappointing because it’ll be a shorter season and we’ll have to wait a little longer for it to happen,” he said. “We’re ready to go. And the state is saying there’s no LIC and that’s really what we want to win. But as long as we’re on the field at some point, that’s what’s important and exciting.”

The reaction to the start date and the backup plan for a three- season schedule in 2021 did not receive much fanfare. Coaches are concerned with the overlap in seasons, forcing athletes to choose between sports. They’re also worried about the appropriate amount of time to condition athletes.

“My first reaction was disappointment,” East Islip football coach Sal J. Ciampi said. “This feels like we’re kicking the can down the road. It doesn’t feel like we’re going to play. It feels like they’re placating people now so they don’t get bombarded when it all goes south in mid-September. In the end, it feels like they’re slowly preparing people for the announcement that we’re waiting until next year. ”

Ciampi is against the proposal of moving all high school sports into three condensed seasons in 2021. Embedded content “The proposal of three seasons starting in January is completely unacceptable,” he said.

“That’s what they came up with. The overlap in seasons forces kids to make a choice of what to play. The state bombarded us with all the safety protocols and rules for head injuries for five years and now they’re trying to jam football into the middle of two other seasons without enough conditioning. That’s totally against all the safety protocols that have been put in place. That will change.”

The potential conflicts go outside just the high school schedule. Kristina Garcia, a rising senior at Great Neck South, plays for the well-known East Meadow Soccer Club. Her talents and exposure allowed her to compete for the Dominican Republic National Team in the CONCACAF Under-20 Women’s Soccer World Cup and she is committed to Stony Brook University.

Garcia plays travel soccer during the spring, and if the varsity soccer season is pushed to the spring, she will face some tough decisions. Embedded content “That would be conflicting for me because I may have games for my league while I have high school games,” Garcia said. “That may cause problems for myself and everyone in my club. There would be a lot of conflicts.”

Garcia wants to play both varsity and club soccer, even if it brings some conflicts. She said she isn’t sure what she would do if there’s a scheduling issue between school and club games. Travel soccer has always been her priority, but at the same time, she loves competing with her classmates and representing her school.

“It would definitely be a hard decision because playing my last season is everything I’ve waited for since I was a freshman,” Garcia said. “But it’s time to move on to what’s coming in the future if that’s what it comes down to.”

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